It was fun to see you all yesterday. Kind of crazy to have so many people on the same call. I guess that is what happens with such a big family.
In light of all of the joy of the day yesterday with the confirmations of Madison and Gerardo and Gerardo's ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood, we had some sad and hard news last night. After we finished talking with y'all last night la familia Castillo (the family whose house we were at) asked to speak with us. They didn't come to church yesterday and they explained that it was because they had been up from 10PM Saturday night till 4AM Sunday morning doing their "research" on the church. They explained that they had watched a one hour long video that didn't paint the church in a very good light. We talked about what Satan's purpose is and decided that he wants to confuse us, destroy the plan of salvation, and ensure that no one receives salvation. We then explained that from his perspective if there were only one church in the whole world that could bring salvation to the children of God that he would do all in his power to fight against that church. We spoke with them for about an hour and learned about their doubts and concerns. Beranice, the mom, on Friday had told us that she was 100% sure that she wanted to get baptized and that the next time we came she would tell us if it would be this weekend or next weekend. Now she is confused and unsure. Sounds like Satan's influence.
We are going to teach them again tonight and plan on seeing them every day this week to begin resolving doubts and helping to bring the Spirit into their home as we read and pray with them. Please pray that they will receive a witness that the Book of Mormon is true and that they will have exceedingly great faith. I am beginning to understand what all the General Conference talks were about. The theme seemed to be defending the faith in the face of opposition
On a more positive note, we had Zone Conference this week and it was wonderful. Elder Johnson did a training on opening your mouth that was just terrific, Sister Ashton talked about how to handle persecution, and President Ashton gave the best training of my mission. He talked about how this is the Lord's work and how he goes with us. He read D&C 84:88
Then he explained that this is literal. He said he had a sure knowledge that the Savior Himself had recently come to a meeting in the mission and that many of us were present in that meeting. That was pretty powerful. I remember Bishop Jorgensen saying the same thing about a certain Sacrament Meeting at one point. Two weeks ago I gave a training in a meeting about the ministering of angels and since then I have been constantly reflecting on the presence of angels in my life. I can say that I have a sure knowledge that they accompany me, they minister to me, and they bless and change the hearts of those we teach. I know that I have been born up by angels many times on my mission.
At the beginning of President Ashton's training, he read a story in which a missionary's family shows up to the mission and follows their missionary son around for the day. The family is all excited to watch the missionary in action but as they follow him they continually become more discouraged and saddened due to the lack of obedience of the missionary. At the end of the trip the family writes a letter to the mission president and explains their experience watching their missionary son and the letter is signed, "With love from your Heavenly Home, Father, Mother, and Jesus Christ". President Ashton asked us if we felt more uncomfortable thinking that it was our earthly family watching us or our Heavenly Parents. I rose my hand and explained the experience that I had with David in the driveway the morning I left for the MTC. That experience had influenced every single day of my mission. He was sobbing and then embraced me tightly and said through his tears, "I would give anything to do what you are about to do. Don't waste a single minute." President Ashton then asked all the missionaries if our younger siblings would have the same experience that I had. If we, the older siblings, will be able to say those same words with that same conviction when our younger siblings leave for their missions. Elder William R. Walker in conference spoke of the coin that says, "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants" and then said, "I feel that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants". I feel the same way. As I spoke with all of you last night and felt of your love and support I realized that throughout my whole life each of you have been lifting me up, reaching down and taking my hand until I was standing upon your shoulders. I consider each of you to be spiritual giants in my life and could not be more grateful for your example and love.
Tomorrow we will have a mission conference in the temple. It will be half of the elders in the mission. We have a 6:30 AM session with just missionaries. The temple president and his wife along with President and Sister Ashton will then teach us in the training room for two and a half hours. The topic is our true identity. I am pretty excited.
Thank you for all that you do. Please pray for the Castillos.
One final thought, last night while driving to the Castillos, the hymn "Praise to the Man" came on in the car. I mentioned to Elder Tittle that I received my testimony of Joseph Smith while listening to that hymn. As I said those words, the Spirit came and testified to me once again that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It was a tender mercy to have that experience immediately before having that belief rejected and attacked by those I have come to love so dearly. I have had that experience many times during my mission - the witness coming in the moment that I will be called upon to defend the truth. I know that as the persecution increases and the fiery darts of the Adversary are ever thrown at our faith that we will be strengthened through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. His grace is sufficient to heal us, to help us, and to protect us from the spiritual whirlwinds that will surely come.
I love you,